A Penny For Your Thoughts   3 comments

CAVEAT: This post has absolutely nothing to do with WoW. It is opinionated, and reflects on some of my opinions on social values that you may not agree with! If this type of thing doesn’t interest you, please move right along and check back tomorrow for something involving WoW. If it does interest you, but you find you disagree with my opinion on things, my only request is that you are respectful in your dissent.

Disclaimer: I am a graduate of Ole Miss.

I’m not sure if you’ve seen The Blind Side yet, if not I would highly recommend it (it released on video yesterday, so you can rent it if you’d like!). It’s a great film whether you find yourself interested in sports, or not, and it deals with some pretty real social issues. I know, I know…I said this was going to be opinionated, and here you are thinking that I’m about to give you a movie review. But I’m not! I just wanted to lay down the background for the thoughts that I am about to present.

Ok…why am I bringing up The Blind Side? You mean outside of my closet enjoyment in football (hey…you don’t go to Ole Miss and not learn to at least tolerate and understand the game!), and outside of the fact I adore Sandra Bullock? Well, I’m bringing it up because something rankled me after my first viewing in the theatre, and again after my second viewing last night.

In case you were un-familiar with the movie it is based on the Real Life experiences of a man named Michael Oher. The general gist of it is this: Michael was born in the projects of Memphis Tennessee. His mother was an alcoholic and drug addict, and Michael was removed from her home and became a ward of the state. Ultimately what happened, which is sadly not uncommon for wards of the state, is that he was shuffled from foster home to foster home. Shuffled from school to school and ultimately ended sleeping on someone’s couch, homeless, under educated and very much alone.

By a stroke of luck, Michael was admitted into a private school, admissions pushed by a coach who wanted him on his sports team.

Anyhow, long story short, in the end what happened was that a very affluent family took an interest in Michael’s well being and welcomed him into their home. They educated him, they clothed him, they feed him, and ultimately they offered him a chance at life that he likely would have never received otherwise. Michael ended up being a very skilled football player, and received offers to attend university at some of the top schools and with some of the top athletic programs.

In the end, Michael chose to attend Ole Miss. The alma mater of his adoptive family. The same school that the people that cared for him and gave him a chance had attended.

But here is the part that has me pretty fired up – The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) ran an investigation on Michael’s recruitment. They alleged that because the affluent family that took Michael in were considered “boosters” of Ole Miss, because they gave a lot of money to the athletic program and because they were very outspoken about their support for the school, that the only reason the plucked this kid out of the projects, and changed his life, was so that he could play football for “their” school.

Now, what has me pissed off isn’t that they second guessed the reason behind the charity of the family, but that the question was even asked.

Quite frankly, even if the family did have an underlying reason for looking after Michael who cares? Hell, if more affluent families want to educate, clothe and feed extremely underprivileged children, regardless of the underlying reasons behind it, I say let them do it. What bad would come out of this? That maybe the NCAA’s concerns of people that have more giving to those in need would irreparably corrupt college athletics? That too many kids from the projects will be swooped up, educated and given opportunities they would likely not have had otherwise?

Seriously?

Have you ever been to the inner-city of a major metropolitan area? Not just driven through it, but actually spent time there? I have. I did youth volunteer work with inner-city kids. Kids whose parents showed up to conferences at 10:00 am so drunk or buzzed that I thought I would get a contact high from sitting across the table from them… and this was after the social worker went and got them out of bed. Kids who were so poor that they only had the clothes on their back, and didn’t own a winter coat. Kids whose parents would rather spend the government aide they receive on drugs and alcohol rather than food for their children. Kids who know better than to be outside after dark because it just isn’t safe.

These are realities. This isn’t Hollywood glamming things up (or down as it were). Hell, Hollywood is making it out better than what is really is most of the time. Because in reality it is sad, it truly makes you grateful for what you do have. And honestly spending time there is life changing, no matter who you are. Having a child light up because you come and spend time with her and share books once a week, and knowing that it is the highlight of their week every week because it’s the best thing happening to them and you are one of the only people truly taking an interest in them, makes a person really think about things. It gives you a different perspective on life. You cannot help but be changed from even one experience like that.

So back to my rant.

If an affluent family wants to give a kid a chance, I don’t care why they are doing it. It really eats at me that the NCAA has these concerns. Sure, their job is to enforce and ensure that there is fairness is collegiate sports, but christ…what about social responsibility? Are you seriously going to complain that a kid with nothing was given opportunities previously unavailable to him? Is society as a whole seriously going to say that this is an issue? Hell, let every damn family that can afford another mouth at the table, and wants to, make a difference in a child’s life, even if that means some football, basketball, baseball team is going to get an advantage. Let every rich alumnus that wants his or her sports team to do better take in a kid with potential and care for them and educate them. I’d love to see that happen.

Is this really what our society has come down to? Placing the fairness of athletics over the nurturing of a child who had nothing? Please tell me this isn’t the case. What really eats at me is that the NCAA, by even asking these questions, is saying just that: That the integrity of sports is more important than providing opportunities to a child. And I’m sorry, but if that is what we, as a society, truly believe we are in a far worse state than I imagined, and it’s no wonder there are so many social issues so prevalent today.

So, what do you think? Was the NCAA right in having its concerns?

Posted March 24, 2010 by Beruthiel in /rant

3 responses to “A Penny For Your Thoughts

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  1. While I agree with the overall premise of your post, (I do charity work for Big Brothers and Sisters) there are a couple issues I would like to bring up just to play devil’s advocate.

    1. If the NCAA was correct, would the family have bothered to take him in if he didn’t have such a high level of athletic ability? Would they have done this for any other homeless or under-privileged child?

    2. There was some other fishy stuff that went on here that wasn’t brought up in the movie. Mainly that his high school coach magically got a job with Old Miss around the same time the recruiting process was going on.

    3. As harsh as it sounds, the NCAA’s “sole job” (right or wrong) is to ensure the integrity of their sports. By investigating this case, they are doing what they were created to do.

    I think this whole situation is more of a reflection on our society in general and the government than it is the NCAA.

  2. I’ve been wanting to see this movie :D I’ll have to snag it on dvd and watch it this weekend!

  3. Sadly, quality of education and opportunities for kids is a surprisingly low priority in our society, and it’s only getting worse. I thought the schools were bad when I was a kid, but I talked to someone who went to school to become a history teacher, only to find out once he got out that the schools no longer have enough money to teach history. Or science. Or anything else that isn’t English or math. And of course, the athletic programs. It makes me so angry, but there’s so little that can be done about it =/

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